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Are Beagles Smart? – Here’s Why They’re Ranked Low For Dog Intelligence

If you’re considering keeping a Beagle, you probably already know that they’re affectionate and friendly dogs with an incredible nose! And many owners will claim they often follow their noses into trouble. But does this actually mean Beagles aren’t smart?

Beagles are the 131st smartest dog breeds for “obedience & working intelligence.” But, this doesn’t mean Beagles are dumb. Rather, they have different motivators that don’t fit with the standardized test criteria for measuring dog intelligence. In fact, what actually makes the Beagle smart is their innate ability in tracking scents, which requires a special type of instinctive intelligence.

If you know how Beagles operate, they’re actually incredibly intelligent dogs with a very specialized skill-set. For example, they’re some of the best (if not the best) scent hounds in the world. Let’s examine why these dogs are smarter than you think.

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Why Beagles Rank Low For Dog Intelligence

Why are Beagles listed as one of the 10 least intelligent dog breeds?

You may or may not have already seen the list of the least intelligent dog breeds and noticed the Beagle sitting high on that list. If not, you can check it out here. But before you start making any assumptions on the Beagle’s intelligence, hear us out. 

How accurate is this “smartest dog breeds ranking list” conducted by infamous canine psychologist and pHD, Stanley Coren? Although we think it’s a good starting point for measuring your dog’s intelligence, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The list of intelligent dog breeds is based on just one aspect of dog intelligence, that is, “obedience & working intelligence.” However, there’s so much more to dog intelligence than just working & obedience. It’s why there are clear flaws with his test (as we’ll point out in this article).

Beagles Aren’t Smart According to Standardized Tests

When it comes to dogs, it’s extremely difficult to create a “standardized” test to measure the intelligence of these animals. It’s not like we can give them a written test like we do with humans. As we mentioned, different dog breeds have different motivators.

Some breeds, such as the Border Collie or Blue Heeler, will work simply for the sake of working. They live to work, whether it’s obedience tests, herding or guarding and protecting livestock. However, this simply isn’t the case with all dog breeds – especially with the Beagle.

With that said, it’s important to understand the criteria in which Coren used for his trials: 

  1. The first criterion is the number of repetitions it took for a dog breed to learn a new command. Fewer repetitions means a smarter dog, according to Coren.
  2. His second criterion is the success rate that the dog obeys a known command on the first try. Higher success rates mean a more intelligent and obedient dog breed.

To standardize a test based on these two criteria is not fair for many dog breeds. In reality, these trials seem more like an obedience test than an actual intelligence test. Furthermore, not all dog breeds will be as responsive to obeying an unfamiliar handler.

Just because a dog doesn’t obey a known command doesn’t mean the dog doesn’t know what you’re saying. This is exactly the case with the Beagle. These dogs aren’t as biddable as other dog breeds, but it has little to do with how smart they actually are.

The Beagles’ Personality Affected the Intelligence Trials

Though Beagles can be affectionate and friendly, they are also curious and independent dogs. But at the same time, they’re notoriously stubborn. As a result, not all Beagles will want to obey your commands “just because” you tell them to.

However, this doesn’t mean they’re not trainable – many owners claim they’re quite easy to train if done right. It’s just that Beagles value their own priorities over yours. That doesn’t mean that they don’t love or respect you, as the owner.

Primo, my Beagle doesn’t always listen…but really, I think he’s just always in his own world and will come out whenever he wants.

– Andrew C.

While they are affectionate and loyal with their owners, Beagles are also independent thinkers. In other words, their whole lives don’t revolve around the training and following commands. Their ability to think independent of their owners is actually a sign of high intelligence.

Again, this doesn’t mean Beagles don’t love you. They’re really loving dogs and love being with people. It’s just that Beagles are smart enough to think for themselves.

2 Reasons Why Beagles Are Actually Smart

There’s a lot more to dog intelligence is more than just being obedient and having high work-ethic. The problem is that this one aspect of dog intelligence is the easiest to objectively measure in dogs. Even Coren admits this.

According to Stanley Coren, there are two other dimensions of dog intelligence. The others are adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are just as important in identifying intelligence in dogs. But unlike o&w intelligence, they’re more difficult to measure.

That said, here’s why Beagles are actually more intelligent than you think.

1. Beagles have the “hunter’s intelligence” in tracking odors

Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate ability or skill that a dog was bred for. In fact, most if not all dogs were bred for a job. This is where the Beagle truly shines in intelligence. But what exactly is it and why is it a type of intelligence?

For example, Australian Shepherds were bred to herd livestock on farms all over the world. This unique ability to push and lead a flock of sheep with little human training requires a special type of intelligence we cannot ignore.

The ability to understand how your movements can affect a flock’s movement is a type of intelligence we see in dogs. And the best part is that these dogs were born with this ability.

Likewise, Beagles were bred to hunt with their nose. As a matter of fact, the Beagle arguably has one of the best noses in the canine kingdom. According to Pet Central, Beagles are in the top 3 for best sense of smell – along with the Bloodhound and Basset Hound. 

For reference, humans have 5 million scent receptors in the nose. On the other hand, Beagles have 220 million scent receptors! That’s roughly 44 times more than ours!

Not only do they have an amazing nose, but Beagles also have an un-matched skill in differentiating all types of odors. This in itself is a special intelligence. They can do this (and will do it) without any human training.

The Beagle’s nose is what actually what fuels their curiosity for all things in life. If you were getting so many unique odors on a daily basis, wouldn’t you be curious and want to explore the odor too?

You can probably imagine all the different types of scents that the Beagle encounters throughout their day. With so many distractions, it could be a big reason why they can’t “focus” on obedience training.

Instead of following commands, a Beagle might be more focused on figuring out where an intriguing smell is coming from. For this reason, they’re some of the best hunters, trackers, TSA dogs, health inspection dogs and more! 

2. Beagles are great at learning from past experiences

On the other hand, adaptive intelligence refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. Though all individual dogs in a breed have similar instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence can vary greatly.

Beagles are generally good at problem solving and highly capable of learning from previous mistakes. Both of these are clear signs of high adaptive intelligence in this breed.

The problem is that adaptive intelligence may be the most difficult aspect of dog intelligence to measure. We have to rely on owner anecdotes to gauge this type of IQ. The good news is that there are plenty of owners that can confirm Beagles have high adaptive intelligence.

A Beagle owner, tells us:

My Beagle is great at communicating with us. I would say as many words until I say what she wants. Then she’ll dance in excitement to tell me that’s it!”

– Debra K. (Beagle Owner)

Beagles are also fantastic at communicating with humans. When a dog and its owner are great at communicating with one another, it means that the dog has learned how to communicate with and understand humans. And of course, Debra’s Beagle is doing just that.

She continues by saying,

I can be on the other side of the house putting on sunscreen to get ready for a walk. And by the time I finish, she’s already waiting by the door. I’m not sure if i’m more impressed by her nose or smarts.

– Debra K. (Beagle Owner)

In this next example, Debra also mentioned how her Beagle is able to take cues for her environment. After a few times of putting on lotion before a walk, Debra’s Beagle was able to make the connection. This is learning from past experiences, hence, adaptive intelligence.

Sure, these are just a few examples of adaptive intelligence in Beagles. However, there are tons of stories just like these. Ask a Beagle owner and you’re sure to hear many similar stories.

Is Your Beagle Smart?

The best way to really gauge how smart Beagles are is by asking the owners – the people that engage and interact with these dogs on a daily basis.

So, we surveyed the popular Beagle Subreddit (and other dog forums) to ask real Beagle owners for answers to this question. Here’s what they had to say to the question.

Real Owner Answers:

1. Kissology says Yes:One of my beagles is smart…too smart. He figured out how to open the refrigerator and has done it twice this week. I now have to get child safely locks for my refrigerator.”

2. Wampafleas says Yes:Been there, my beagle is the reason I have child locks on the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, and pantry. I actually had to put two locks on the dishwasher, because he figured out how to get the first one off.”

3. Theycallmemiriam says No:My beagle Jasper tries, but he’s not super bright.

4. Euro-canuk says Yes:My beagle does basically the opposite of what i want her to do most of the time. But it’s not because she’s dumb, it’s because she’s smart enough to know she can get away with it and still do whatever she wants.”

5. Beaglescout15 says Yes:My first beagle, Scout, was one of the most intelligent animals I’ve ever met. She figured out how to lure people away from their food far enough so that she could run back and grab it before the person could get there.

6. M_trotsky says Mixed:My beagle does what he is told and will listen to commands extremely well, so you would assume was smart… but he is not that intelligent!”

7. Grrrr1877 says No:Well, I sometimes feel my beagle is dumb as a bag of bricks…

8. Northsidebill1 says Yes:Be careful. Beagles are smart enough to fool their humans into thinking they are complete windowlickers. Mine had me fooled for a while and then I figured her out.”

9. Doxiewrangler says No:She regularly forgets how to beagle and slams into walls, the sides of couches, the sliding glass door and her kennel multiple times a day. Its part of her charm, lol.”

10. Gmazing23 says Yes:Okay, my 9 year old beagle, Joey, is fairly smart, at least from my family’s view. He can signal when he wants something specific by scratching, whining, or looking. He can tell when someone is feeling down, and loves everyone.”

11. Monica says Yes:As a beagle owner I can tell you that beagles are very very smart dogs. My puppy can learn a new trick in 1 training session.”

12. Samantha says Yes:I have had rough collies (like Lassie) and right now we have a border collie and a beagle. The beagle is By FAR the most intelligent dog I’ve ever owned.”

Are Beagles For Me?

Why do you need a dog that’s considered smart by the “experts?” There’s really no reason to pick a dog breed based solely on their intelligence. In fact, I would argue that you don’t really want a dog that’s too smart, as they require more work.

All dogs, including Beagles, are capable of obedience training and learning basic commands. It’s just that the priorities of the Beagle may be very different from the priorities of owners. Obeying the sit, stay, roll over or come commands is not particularly important to these dogs.

As a Beagle owner, you need to understand this and accept them for who they are. This is who they and there’s not much you can do about it. If you want a dog breed that’s eager to please and will do anything and everything for you, try a Golden Retriever instead.   

When owners say their dog is smart, what they’re actually saying is that they’re easy to train. Beagles don’t really fit the bill, but saying they’re dumb dogs is unfair. They can sometimes be smarter than the people who own them. 

Most people raise dogs for companionship, and that’s exactly what owners should be considering. Rather than looking at their intelligence rank, look at their temperament and personality. Does the Beagle’s personality fit yours (and your family’s)? 

Do you own a Beagle? If so, what do you think – is your Beagle smart? Leave a comment in the comments section below to let us know. 

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Jeannie Matteson

Wednesday 12th of July 2023

Yes my Beagle is smart. Or clever. Or conniving. She will sit in my chair and knows that I will give her a treat to get her out of it.

Maria Robles

Saturday 22nd of April 2023

I’ve had 2 beagles in my life. First one when I was a little kid and I was able to teach her so many tricks and I have no idea how I did it, she would just get it! I have my second one now and let me tell you.. she’s the smartest dog I’ve ever met. Too smart sometimes! I love her to pieces and will never own any other breed!


Wednesday 28th of December 2022

We've had several beagles over many years and they are such clever dogs! Cleverest by far was our beagle foxhound cross who could open fridges, baby gates, pantries, anything she needed to access food. She could not only open doors but close them too, once closing herself in the bottom of the linen cupboard to hide after she somehow figured we were going to the vets. She once moved her kennel diagonally across the yard to the exact spot where the fence was at its lowest so she could stand on the roof and look over into the neighbours yard. Currently we have a beagle and a foxhound, who work together brilliantly. 1 distracts the person with food, while the other sneaks up and steals it, then they both bolt off to share. They taught themselves to do that far quicker than our kids have learned not to fall for it.

Carolyn Bennett

Monday 26th of December 2022

I had my fabulous little beagle for 14 1/2 years and there is a not enough room to explain his intelligence. Like other beagles, he was shrewd and knew I would do almost anything to accommodate his needs. He was getting older and had arthritis. So he would act like it was too hard for him to jump on the couch and look at me while making motions like he was trying, so of course, I would go over and help him up on the couch. This went on for months. Christmas comes and some nice person left a large box of Crumble cookies and a bottle of wine on my doorstep. So I figured if I put the cookies up on the high countertop, he couldn’t get to them, cuz remember, he can’t jump😉 I then went to work. 5 hours later I come home to an empty box. He had jumped up on my dining room chairs, and then the dining room table and on up to the counter, hit the cookies off the counter and ate every last one of those chocolate chip cookies. No - he did not get sick! But the next time he asked for help to get up on the couch, I said d, “don’t give me that crap, I know you can jump up now so do it yourself”. It was like he said, “I had a good run though” and jumped right up on the couch. Beagles, at least my little Toby was beyond intelligent. I miss him every single day. I loved his independence!❤️

Martin Horsler

Monday 10th of October 2022

My Beagle is stubborn and mostly only obeys commands when it suits him, but he is brilliant at problem solving. He opens our doors to the outside so we had to lock them but we have to take the key out of the lock because he has worked out how to unlock so he can open it. Now that is annoyingly smart!!

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